“The Nationals, who discussed McCutchen with the Pirates before the non-waiver deadline, remain interested, sources say; the Nats are also pursuing a closer and exploring a trade for White Sox lefty Chris Sale, but the acquisition of a center fielder would allow them to move Trea Turner back to shortstop, his natural position.” (h/t, Rosenthal, FOX Sports)
McCutchen is under contract for two more years and $28.75 million, which includes a $14.5 million club option for 2018. But, he is coming off a down season. The former National League MVP had a slash line of .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs and 79 RBI’s in 2016.
The problem for McCutchen the last two years has been his defense in center field. From 2015 on, he has had -36 defensive runs saved as a center field, including -28 runs saved this past season (according to Fangraphs). Even though Turner is still learning the position, he is a better defensive center fielder than McCutchen right now.
If the Washington Nationals have to part with top position player prospect Victor Robles in this kind of a deal, Mike Rizzo and the front office should not make the deal in my opinion. Robles, who is 19-years old, may not be at double-A yet, but he has great speed (37 stolen bases last season). Plus, with contracts set to expire in the Nats outfield over the next couple of years, Robles could play a big part in the outfield in a few years.
While the Washington Nationals are in a win now mode and McCutchen can provide offense since he has hit 20+ home runs in six straight years, the Nats would only have him under team control for two more seasons. They already have an outfielder whose contract is up after 2018 and that’s another former NL MVP, Bryce Harper.
The McCutchen storyline will be something to watch next week at the Winter Meetings (if they do take place). The Washington Nationals could use another outfielder, but they would be able to work out a deal with the Pirates for McCutchen without having to give up Robles? We will find out.